This Jeopardy! executive producer will not be Alex Trebek’s successor as the famed quiz show’s host after being named to the position a week ago.
Who is Mike Richards? Correct.
Call it a surprising move. Call it a Friday news dump. Although if Sony Pictures Television really wanted to bury this news, the company would likely have waited until much later in the day, perhaps the evening, before announcing that Mike Richards will not be the new permanent host of Jeopardy!.
BREAKING: Mike Richards has stepped down as the host of Jeopardy! Official statement via Sony: pic.twitter.com/eJSwyBOXwN
— Claire McNear (@clairemcnear) August 20, 2021
Last week, Sony announced that Richards, currently Jeopardy!‘s executive producer, would take over as host of the syndicated game show after months of guest stars fronting the program following Trebek’s death, some of whom were presumably auditioning for the permanent job. One of those popular guest-hosts, actor and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik, was also named as a host for primetime Jeopardy! specials and a possible spin-off show.
It appeared that Sony was trying to have it both ways, with a solid, if not notable, replacement for Trebek, in addition to one of the most popular guest-hosts, both being the new faces for the acclaimed game show. Yet many Jeopardy! fans — diehard or otherwise — protested that one of the more impressive guest-hosts such as actor LeVar Burton or Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the choice instead.
But a scathing report this week by The Ringer’s Claire McNear raised several issues about the selection process for a new host led by the executive producer who eventually picked himself. (McNear is very plugged into the inner workings of Jeopardy!, writing a book about the show published last year, titled Answers in the Form of Questions.)
Of greater concern, however, were remarks Richards made on a 2014 podcast titled The Randumb Show that were misogynist, derogatory, and even antisemitic.
“In the podcast’s third episode, [former assistant Beth] Triffon discusses some acting roles she has auditioned for; Richards says she should try out for Taiwanese roles because of her height. In another episode, after Gray makes a nonspecific comment about big noses, Richards jumps in. ‘Ixnay on the ose-nay,” he says. “She’s not an ew-Jay.’“
McNear’s report followed up on accusations of past harassing and discriminatory behavior from Richards going back to his tenure as executive producer of The Price is Right. Several lawsuits filed against the show named him in allegations. Richards wrote a memo to Jeopardy! staff in response, saying that the complaints did “not reflect the reality of who I am.”
Those previous allegations were enough of an obstacle for fans and advocacy groups accepting Richards as the new permanent Jeopardy! host. But the report from McNear raising further questionable behavior only made the noise louder, obviously too loud for Richards to withstand as he was preparing to take over for the 2021-22 season. Apologizing for those remarks was no longer going to be enough.
“Over the last several days, it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show,” said Richards in another memo released to the public by Sony.
Though Richards is stepping down as host, he is presumably remaining with the show as executive producer.
According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Richards had already begun taping shows for the new season on Thursday (Aug. 19). Whether or not those now make it to air has yet to be determined. Further shows were set to be taped on Friday, but filming has been canceled.
As Richards mentioned in his memo, Jeopardy! will return to bringing guest-hosts to the program while a new search for a permanent host resumes. A second chance for LeVar Burton?